The comic first appeared in serial form in Tintin magazine in 1977, with the story La Magicienne Trahie. Originally a stand-alone 30-page project, its early success encouraged turning it into a longer series.
It has subsequently been published in hardcover volumes by Le Lombard from 1980 on. Translations have appeared in among others, English, Dutch, German, Polish, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Norwegian and Greek.
Covers for all albums are drawn by Rosiński, even for the spin-off albums which sometimes are drawn by other artists.
Reception and significance
Thorgal is critically acclaimed and one of the most popular French language comics, with more than 11 million Thorgal books in print. There are currently three ongoing successful spin-off series, in addition to the continuation of the main Thorgal series.
It has been called the most popular series published by Le Lombard.
D. Aviva Rothschild in his 1995 book Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-length Comics praised the series, stating that it is "better than an American swords-and-sorcery comic" when it comes to both art and stories. Commenting on The Archers volume, Rothschild described it as "one of the finest pieces of heroic fantasy I have ever set my eyes on".
The series has also been credited with popularizing the comics in Poland.
Thorgal Aegirsson: Son of Varth and Haynee, grandson of Xargos – a captain of a spaceship on a way to Earth in search of energy. He is raised by Vikings after his ship crash-lands. He possesses character traits and morality that many Vikings consider a sign of weakness. Thorgal is still a courageous and skillful warrior and an archer of phenomenal skill. His life's goal is to find a place for his family to live in peace. For a time, he is stripped of his memory, and becomes the pirate lord Shaigan, though his compassion remained unaltered.
Aaricia: Thorgal's wife and the daughter of Gandalf the Mad, a Viking leader. She is bound to Thorgal from the moment of her birth by a magic object named Tjahzi's Tears. Aaricia is a spirited and strong-willed woman, who loves her family dearly despite all the mishaps Thorgal's fate brings to their lives.
Jolan: Thorgal's son. He possesses supernatural powers as the heritage of Thorgal's mysterious ancestry. For most of the series his power is limited to molecular agitation (usually the ability to disintegrate objects). He gradually learns to hone his ability.
Louve: Thorgal and Aaricia's daughter, who has the ability to communicate with animals.
Kriss of Valnor: A young, beautiful, unscrupulous and deadly warrior, and also a skilled archer. She first appears in Les Archers, and then intermittently in the following stories. She is in some ways Thorgal's greatest nemesis, and repeatedly tries to hurt him and his family, but occasionally shows hints of admiration and even secret love for Thorgal. When Thorgal loses his memory, she tricks him into believing that they are married, and convinces Thorgal that he is the ruthless pirate lord Shaigan. She becomes pregnant with his son Aniel, whom her father Kahaniel of Valnor wished to reincarnate himself, but Thorgal eventually regains his memory and leaves to find his true family. Later, she ends up as a slave in Byzantium and apparently sacrifices her life to help Thorgal's family escape from the same slave pits, but is later revealed to be alive and queen in the northern lands.
Aniel: the young son of Thorgal and Kriss of Valnor, conceived while Thorgal lived as the pirate lord Shaigan. He and his mother fall prey to Byzantian slavers, and his vocal cords are cut to forestall crying, leaving him mute. Later, Kriss and Aniel escape the slave pits with Aaricia, Jolan and Louve, who had also been brought there. When Kriss is wounded by her pursuers and prepared to make her last stand, she asks Aaricia to take care of Aniel. Aaricia agrees and takes Aniel in as one of her own children. Aniel is later kidnapped to serve as a host body for Kahlim, grand master of the Red Mages of the oriental city of Bag Dadh (Le Feu écarlate). With the help of Armenos the Mage, both Kahaniel and Kahlim are exorcised from him, but having become hateful of Thorgal, he leaves with his mother.
Kahaniel de Valnor
Gandalf the Mad
Kriss de Valnor
Aniel de Valnor
Ogotai (also known as Varth): the war-loving, merciless "god" brought by the sea into the land of Qâ (a presumably South American pre-Columbian civilization). He leads his people into countless conquests of the neighboring tribes and orders endless human sacrifices to himself. He has superior intelligence, knowledge of highly advanced technology, and supernatural powers, which he uses to trick people into believing he is a true god. In reality, he is a grief-stricken, crazed man, driven by the vengeance against the planet he believes responsible for the death of his beloved wife and son.
Tanatloc (also known as Xargos): another "god" living in the land of Qâ. He is the nemesis of Ogotai, with whom he shares a secret past. He is kept hidden from his people.
Darek and Lehla: brother and sister children of banished Vikings who met Aaricia and her family after they had been banished from their village following Shaigan's raids against their people. They joined Thorgal and his family on their journey, but after a few adventures they decided to stay behind on an island Thorgal and Louve had just liberated from a tyrant (Arachneà). However, Lehla later turns up a slave in the northern lands, where she is liberated by Thorgal and taken along for his search for Aniel (Le bateau-sabre). They later recover Darek from slavery in the jungle kingdom of Zhari (Aniel), and they subsequently join Thorgal's extended family.
The Key Guardian: a powerful magician, who is (or maybe just assumes the form of) a beautiful woman. The gods have entrusted her with the task of guarding the passages between worlds. She walks between the worlds, wearing nothing but a golden girdle that grants her powers and immortality. She has (like many other female characters appearing in the series) a crush on Thorgal, but she respects his loyalty to his family. Because of her love, she is eventually dismissed as a Guardian, cast out into the mortal world, and adopts the name Cleo (Louve #6: "La Reine des Alfes noirs").
Tjall (called by some people Tjall-The-Fiery): the young, hot-headed nephew of Treefoot and friend of Thorgal. An excellent archer with a good heart and a silly mind, who has a crush on Kriss. He later dies while accompanying Thorgal to the City of the Lost God (La Cité du Dieu Perdu), saving him from a raging mob.
Argun Treefoot: He's uncle of Tjall. He's a warrior past his prime and with a pegleg, but still an exceptional archer and bowmaker. One of Thorgal's few friends.
Solveig: she is a Viking who is the best friend of Aaricia. Devoted friend she will help the family Aegirsson.
Shaniah: a teenage girl from a village enamored in the adult and married Thorgal. Out of jealousy she causes a great tragedy in Thorgal's life, but later redeems herself by giving her own life to save Aaricia.
Gandalf the Mad: Aaricia's father and king of the Vikings of the North. He became the leader of his tribe after Thorgal's adoptive father's death. Greedy, cruel and mad, he makes repeated attempts at Thorgal's life, whom he perceives a threat to the legitimacy of his own rule.
Tiago and Ileniya: brother and sister descendants of a group of space-farers who had landed on Midgard and formed the fabled kingdom of Atlantis. They foiled their elders' plan to enslave the world and travelled together with Thorgal and his family. Soon afterwards, however, they were all taken as slaves to a Byzantinian governor and his sadistic son Heraclius, who made Ilyena his personal 'pet". When Tiago tried to stop Heraclius from abusing his sister, the nobleman murdered him; in revenge, Ileniya killed Heraclius later on and, facing imminent death, joined her brother by throwing herself off a cliff.
Snake Nidhogg: a powerful, mythological monster creature, which Thorgal dared to go against in his youth with the help of the goddess Frigg. Based on Níðhöggr from Norse mythology.
Volsung of Nichor: A cunning, treacherous schemer. He first appears as Thorgal's competitor in Three Elders of Aran, but apparently dies in the tests they have to face. Actually, Nidhogg saves him to be her servant; his mission is to gain the Girdle of Immortality from the Guardian of the Keys. For betraying her, she transforms Volsung into a toad and keeps him with her trapped in the neverness.
Muff: A dog that belongs to Jolan & Louve. He appears for the last time in "The Blue Sickness", when he stayed on the island of Our Ground, together with Darek de Svear and his sister Lehla, because he was too old to travel any further.
Alinoë: Appeared in the volume of the same name as a violent, primitive boy with green hair, later revealed to be part of Jolan's imagination. He vanished when Jolan's mysterious bracelet was removed by Thorgal.
Manthor: a Viking Half-God who cures Thorgal in "Sacrifice". He is the son of Kahaniel of Valnor and the half-brother of Kriss of Valnor.
Vigrid: One of the lesser Gods of Asgard who is indebted towards Aaricia for having helped him after having gone blind. He repays this debt by helping her husband reach Manthor and bringing her back to her ancestral home. However, his love for Aaricia eventually made him abandon a task set by the gods, compelling Frigg to banish him from Asgard to Svartalfheim (Louve #5: "Skald"). However, he finally earns his eventual pardon by taking the recalcitrant Niddhog's destined place as the guardian of Yggdrasil (Louve #7: "Niddhog").
The Kingdom of Zhar (first featured in Le Mal Bleu)
Zarkaj and Zajkar: The twin princes of Zhar. To avoid dynastic disputes, Zajkar was chosen to be killed right after birth, but survived and was taken in by the Myrms. After growing to manhood, and with Thorgal's help, he reclaims his rightful place and reconciles with his brother, with whom he rules the realm as a diarchy.
Armenos: A reclusive mage and inventor. He first saves Thorgal and his family from the Blue Death disease, and later Aniel from his dual possession (Aniel).
Zim: A member of the Myrms, Zharians afflicted with dwarfism and made outcast swamp-dwellers. Zim falls in love with Thorgal upon his first visit, but respects his faithfulness to his family. When Thorgal returns to Zhar after completing his search for Aniel, Zim loses her life in the last decisive battle against a horde of Amazons.
Gilli and Ava: The children of Grimur from the village of Mikladalur, a henchman of the sysselmann of Kalsoy. While Gilli is a normal human boy, Ava is half selkie, the result of Grimur having captured himself one of the seal-folk as his wife. When Grimur kidnapped Louve to rear her as a new wife, Thorgar and Jolan went to her rescue, which set off a chain of events which lifted a curse bestowed on the islanders by the selkies; Grimur is killed in an uprising against the tyrannical sysselmann, while Ava's mother recovers her pelt and returns into the sea. With their parents gone, the two children are taken in as part of Thorgal's family (La selkie).
Fictional character biography
After of being lost at sea, the ship of Viking leader Leif Haraldson suddenly finds its way home, guided by a mysterious light in the fog. To the superstitious Vikings, the light is seen as a sign from the gods. Once on shore, they find a sort of capsule, which appears to be the source of the mysterious light. Leif opens the capsule and finds a newborn baby boy. He names the child Thor-gal Aegirs-son, after Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, and Aegir, the ruler of the sea, because he considers Thorgal to be a gift from the Gods. Leif takes Thorgal under his care as his adoptive son.
As Thorgal grows up, he is curious about his origins and often ostracized by his peers for not being a "real" Viking. On his sixth birthday, Leif gives him two strange artifacts taken from the capsule he was found in. One is a jewel made from "the metal that doesn't exist". The jewel brings Thorgal on his first adventure, and binds his fate forever with that of Aaricia (his future wife). When Thorgal is twelve, the other gift prompts him to visit an old wiseman, who reveals to Thorgal his origins and true identity. He tells him that he's one of the last survivors of a group of technologically advanced space-farers who came to the planet in search of new energy sources. His people have great supernatural powers like changing the molecular composition of matter with their mind; powers that Thorgal himself seems not to have. Thorgal learns about his real parents and grandfather, and the events that preceded his birth. The old man decides to erase Thorgal's memory of their encounter and the knowledge he just learned, believing that it will be better for Thorgal to grow up as a "normal" Viking boy with no supernatural powers. Thorgal, however, continues to grow up as curious and conflicted about his true identity as ever.
Soon after this event Leif Haraldson dies and Gandalf the Mad is chosen as his successor. Gandalf repeatedly tries to get rid of Thorgal, because -– as he constantly reminds everyone – Thorgal is an outsider and not of Viking blood. In reality, Gandalf feels threatened because Thorgal is Leif's heir. In the meantime, Thorgal's relationship with Aaricia, Gandalf's daughter, develops and strengthens. While her wishes do not have much influence on her father, she is able to save Thorgal from certain death (by her father's hand) through her determination and ingenuity.
The first album of the series starts some years later, when Thorgal is already an adult, and Gandalf devises a plan to kill him after realizing how deep the love his daughter has for Thorgal really is.
Collected French language editions
The albums consist of several story arcs and many stand-alone stories.
Jean Van Hamme (story) and Grzegorz Rosiński (art)
4. La Galère Noire (1982) (start of the Brek Zarith story arc)
5. Au-delà des Ombres (1983)
6. La chute de Brek Zarith (1984) (end of the Brek Zarith story arc)
7. L'enfant des étoiles (1984) (3 short stories from Thorgal's youth)
8. Alinoë (1985)
9. Les Archers (1986)
10. Le Pays Qâ (1986) (start of the Qâ story arc)
11. Les Yeux de Tanatloc (1986)
12. La Cité du Dieu Perdu (1987)
13. Entre Terre et Lumière (1988) (end of the Qâ story arc)
14. Aaricia (1989) (4 short stories from Aaricia's youth)
15. Le Maître des Montagnes (1989)
16. Louve (1990)
17. La Gardienne des Clés (1991)
18. L'épée-soleil (1992)
19. La Forteresse Invisible (1993) (start of the Shaigan story arc)
20. La Marque des Bannis (1994)
21. La Couronne d'Ogotaï (1995)
22. Géants (1996)
23. La Cage (1997) (end of the Shaigan story arc)
24. Arachnéa (1999)
25. Le Mal Bleu - (1999)
26. Le Royaume sous le Sable (2001)
27. Le Barbare (2002)
28. Kriss de Valnor (2004)
29. Le Sacrifice (2006)
The 29th volume, The Sacrifice, was the final volume scripted by Jean Van Hamme. Here, Thorgal escapes the curse of Odin. He finds peace in the only home he knows: the Viking village of his adopted father, but then must make a choice.
Danish translation of the series appeared in a different order, beginning with the chronicles of Thorgal's youth. The first album in the series La Magicienne Trahie is number 22 in the Danish series.
Multimedia releases by publisher Seven Sept; concerns background information books elaborating on historical settings and characters of the Thorgal series, enhanced with artwork by Rosinski, interviews, and an included DVD showing the artist at work on the covers of the releases
Entre les faux dieux ("Amidst false gods", ISBN295207528X, 2005) - dealing with The Land of Qa story-cycle
Dans les griffes de Kriss ("In the talons of Kriss", ISBN2916394079, 2006) - dealing with the Kriss of Valnor story-cycle
Aux Origines des mondes ("Thorgal: Origins of worlds", ISBN9782803631933, 2012) - a collection of interviews about the creation of spin-off Thorgal series, interviews by Patrick Gaumer[fr] with Grzegorz Rosiński, Giuliano de Vita, Yves Sente, Roman Surzhenko and Yann Le Pennetier.
Rosinski artbook - Thorgal 40 ans ("Rosinski artbook - 40 years of Thorgal", ISBN9782803670901, 2017) - a 224-page art book that also features other Rosinski's comics artwork besides Thorgal alone.
All English-language Thorgal album releases have to date adhered to the approximately standard European A4-format, a book format US and UK readerships have historically not been accustomed to, they instead being born and bred with the much smaller, standard US comic book format. The closest format resembling the European one US and UK readership are traditionally familiar with is that of the US graphic novel format, though it too is somewhat smaller.
Donning Company Publishers (US) had the earliest three English-language titles published in the 1980s
The Archers hardcover was published in 1987 with ISBN0-96178-850-X (a softcover version was a year later published under the company's "Schiffer Pub" imprint with ISBN0-96178-852-6
The Sorceress Betrayed a 96 page softcover omnibus collecting the series' first two volumes La Magicienne Trahie and L'Ile des Mers gelées, was published in 1988 with ISBN0-96178-851-8 under the company's "Ink Publishing Company" imprint
Cinebook Ltd (UK) released the English-language (main) series up until volume 24 in the softcover print format starting with Child of the Stars and Aaricia in 2007. Europe Comics, partnered with Cinebook along with other publishers, took over the English language publications following their formation in 2015 and released the main series (including rereleases of older titles) plus the spin-off series in digital format only. They started in 2019 with the digital release of the main series, starting with volume 21 which was as the only one released under the same ISBN for both formats. With volume 22 digital releases had from 2020 onward overtaken Cinebook's print releases, which from then on was lagging far behind with their print releases, aside from the circumstance that Cinebook did none of the spin-off series.
note: Where two ISBNs are mentioned, the first one concerns the digital release whereas the second one concerns the print release by Cinebook.
0. The Betrayed Sorceress ( ISBN9781849184434) - Collects La Magicienne Trahie and L'Ile des Mers gelées [1 and 2])
Child of the Stars ( ISBN9781905460236) - (collects Child of the Stars and Aaricia [7 and 14])
The Three Elders of Aran ( ISBN9781905460311) - (collects The Three Elders of Aran and The Black Galley [3 and 4])
Beyond the Shadows ( ISBN9781905460458) - (collects Beyond the Shadows and The Fall of Brek Zarith [5 and 6])
An elaborate and multi-national (physical) board-game was in 2023 under development by Portal Games. A crowd funding drive was organized to finance the development of the game. The popularity of Thorgal was once again amply demonstrated when the crowd funding netted the company nearly nine times the funding goal, which was reached within one-and-a-half hour after the start of the drive.
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1 2 These concern series-related publications that fall outside the normal scope of the (main) series, the so-called "besides series" – literal translation of the hard-to-translate original French "Para-B(ande)D(essinées)" moniker – publications, which typically entail such releases as posters, art portfolios, art books, making-of-books, interview books, et al. In France, non-print series-related publications such as (computer)games, figurines or CD(-Rom)s, are also considered part of Para-BD. ( "Thorgal - Le Para-BD". Bedetheque.com (in French).)